The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women

By Diana E. H. Russell | Go to book overview
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12
Ravaged Lives: Three Women's Stories

The lives of each of the three women included in this chapter--one Afro- American, one Latina, and one white--were devastated by repeated experiences of sexual assault. Each of them had multiple experiences of incestuous abuse as well as extrafamilial child sexual abuse. Although there is no way to separate the possible long-term effects of the incestuous abuse from those of the extrafamilial child sexual abuse, these three cases illustrate many of the points made in chapter 11 on revictimization.

Victims of one experience of sexual abuse have frequently been blamed for their victimization; but women and girls who have been sexually abused several times are far more likely to be blamed. The amount of sexual abuse to which each of these women was subjected may strike readers as incredible. It is therefore important to remember that these cases were obtained from a probability sample of women who, furthermore, were living in the community outside of institutions such as mental hospitals, prisons, halfway houses, brothels, and drug abuse treatment centers. Clearly, if our sample had included such institutions, we would have interviewed many more extreme casualties of sexual assault than we did. Nor should we forget that other victims were not alive to be interviewed because they had succeeded in ending their traumatized lives by killing themselves, or were murdered in addition to being sexually victimized. Since each woman is so different, we hope that introducing the reader to their battered lives will serve to challenge stereotypes about multiple victims.

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